Preface: As you will see, I started this post over a year ago, and didn’t know quite where to go with it. After the recent tragedy at UCSB and the rape and murder of two young Indian cousins, I felt the need to revisit it. My heart has been very heavy lately as I continue to hear stories of violence and injustice against women.
Initially, I just threw down a million unorganized thoughts, anxious to get words on the page. Lucky for you, I decided to pare down that mess into a few, more focused posts. Here’s the first.
Like most of the world, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about violence against women, women in media, and women’s roles generally. There has been so much in the news over the past year about these topics, it’s hard to avoid thinking about. And yet, no one seems to have found a “good” solution for changing the way the world treats women, or a “good” explanation for these violent acts. Here are some of the events I’m talking about:
Malala Yousafzai Shooting
Steubenville’s Jane Doe
Ford’s Unaired Commercials
Delhi Gang Rape
I think what makes these events and this conversation the scariest is that it’s not something that is limited to one part of the world. It’s not just a small football town in Ohio, or an Arabic country, it’s all over the world. And it’s a big question to ask, “How do we break this cycle on a global level?”
People say Think Globally, Act Locally. Seems like a pretty solid belief and practice, but the issues surrounding women just being women transcend location, religion, social status, economic status, and on and on. For a paradigm shift to take place on a large scale, people have to start making changes to how they treat women in each of those respects.
The world likes to focus on the female body and sex appeal, so I’ll start there too.
I wholly believe that women were created by God to be alluring, to have appealing shapes, and just generally be attractive. So how are we supposed to move about in a world full of sexists, masochists, rapists, and still fully embrace our natural state as attractive beings? I waffle constantly between dressing out of fear for unwanted responses I may elicit and dressing out of, “Fuck you, I’m 27 and I’m wearing this because it makes me feel good.”
Elliot Rodger believed women owed him sex, and in turn, that they deserved to die for rejecting him for so long. I absolutely believe there is a mental health conversation to have regarding his actions and beliefs, but his motivations can’t be chalked up to being a depressed pathological narcissist. Because there are plenty of men with similar beliefs who continue to comment on his YouTube videos in support of his actions. Because I still get cat-called when I haven’t showered for two days and am wearing a baggy t-shirt. Because we continue to value women for their sex appeal, instead of character, business savvy, or intellect.
Forever (it seems) it has been a woman’s job to regulate a man’s sexual desires. In religious environments, that means covering yourself up. In Cosmo, that means knowing how to please your man. I say, it’s time for men to start taking some of the responsibility.
If you’re a man reading this thinking, “but I’m not a misogynist”, great, you might be right. But you must still share in the responsibility. Talk to your friends about it. Don’t let them cat-call or intimidate women, even their girlfriends. Talk to your sons about appreciating a woman’s attractiveness without demeaning her. Ask your female friends what makes them feel respected and attractive. HAVE female friends.
This is only one part of the conversation, because it’s not just wrapped up in beauty. More to come.